Friday 28 February 2014

February Book Roundup

I haven't had a great deal of time to read (or anything else) this month so the February roundup contains just two books. Both are a recommended read although as I had a small involvement in one of these I may be biased!

D-Day 70
Author/s:  Raymond P Newlyn
Format:    Hardback, 50 Pages
Publisher: doxpressprint
Rating:      ★★★★★

Let me start by saying that I think this book is excellent, and not just because it is the debut book of my good friend and Brother-in-Law, Raymond Newlyn. Well, OK, maybe I am a bit biased but I know he has been working on this illustrated volume for a long time and as a first book its pretty darn good. Ray has been meeting and interviewing veterans of WWII for many years and has built up lots of friendships with them - even being given Honoury membership of the Southend branch of the Normandy Veterans Association - so he has been well placed to record their experiences from 70 years ago.

In this book he features the stories of five veterans who all saw and experienced D-Day from different perspectives. One man was on the beaches just a few hours after they had been secured, another was on a warship torpedoed by a German E-Boat as they lay off the coast. Each mans story is unique and, thanks to Ray, their words are being preserved for future generations. This is a generation that is sadly diminishing every year and first hand accounts of that momentous day need to be recorded while there is still time. One of the things I have learnt over the years is that no matter how many such stories you read there are hundreds more that are equally as dramatic and personal. No one account illustrates the whole picture and so every story is important and valuable and should be preserved. 

This is a limited edition print run and books can only be bought direct through Raymond (email The cost is £15.00+p&p but if you would like a copy signed by all five of the veterans featured in the book then it is just £20.00+p&p, which I think is an amazing price. Alternatively pop down to the Blitz to Victory a Militaria shop in Battlebridge in Essex to purchase a copy. Raymond is also trying to organise a special book signing event in the Southend Shopping Centre so that the public can meet and talk with veterans featured in the volume. Keep an eye on this post and I'll update details of the event when it is finalised.  

The Illustrated Life of Michael Collins
Author/s:  Colm Connolly
Publisher: Roberts Rinehart Pub (1998)
Format:    Hardback, 95 Pages
Rating:      ★★★★☆

I wouldn't normally have picked up this book - I'm not generally interested in biographies - but this one piqued my interest, and it was only 60p in Charity book sale! I didn't know much about the Irish revolutionary leader until I saw the beautifully restored 1920 Rolls-Royce Armoured Car ‘Sliabh Na MBan’ at Tankfest last year. This book of course isn't about the car but about the man forever associated with it, and its a very interesting read. 

Connolly manages to carry the reader on a clear path through the events leading up to the creation of the Irish Free State and avoids the trap of either dehumanisation or hero worship that a character like Collins can inspire. That's not to say that the events of the period are watered down and for anyone new to the history of the conflict the violence and destruction wrought by both sides can be quite shocking. Summary executions were not uncommon with both Republicans and Government forces using 'murder squads' to eliminate each other in a bid to gain the upper hand. What is clear from reading this short biography though is that in Collins, the British Government had met its match both in ruthlessness, in cunning and in determination. 

Personally I found it hard to like the man (and his methods) but easy to admire his ability to achieve his goals. Even his enemies were forced to acknowledge the quality of the man they faced. Although the 'military' campaign he waged against the British in Ireland was ultimately successful its hard not to look back at the spiralling levels of violence on both sides and wonder if better men could not have achieved more with less bloodshed. Having achieved a measure of freedom for his nation Collins subsequently found himself fighting his own countrymen  (and former friends from within the IRA) during the Irish Civil War of 1922-3. It was in this conflict that his motorcade was ambushed near the town of Béal na Bláth in which Collins was mortally wounded in the engagement. With his death the Free State lost one of their most able leaders. 

This is an interesting book with some unique and previously unseen illustrations. It is not an in-depth look at the history of the conflict, nor is it the most detailed biography you'll find about Collins, but it is an interesting and carefully constructed look at a man who's influence on British and Irish History during the interwar years cannot be denied. 

Thursday 27 February 2014

An Italian Mid-War Monster

My latest Challenge Entry takes me back to my 6mm North Africa Project. I already have an Italian Tank Company painted up but on the whole they are pretty poor quality machines. So I have decided to add a little punch to the company by the addition of a single platoon of P40 Heavy Tanks.

This is actually a Medium Tank (comparable in weight to a T34 or Sherman) but when it was initially designed it was twice as heavy as the M13/40 tanks that formed the mainstay of the Italian tank companies in North Africa. Despite the design being on the drawing boards in 1941 it wasn't until late 1942 that the first prototypes came of the production line. Unfortuantely for the Italians the main factory building the engine for this tank was bombed by the Allies and by the time Italy surrendered in September 1943 on 22 had been built. 

Some of these prototype tanks did actually make it to Egypt in time for 2nd Alamein and were used to bolster the otherwise inadequate firepower of the Italian tank forces in the region. I have painted one platoon and a HQ Tank which will provide a little backbone to my currently rather weak Italian tank company. I bought these from GHQ so the quality and detailing is superb making them a joy to paint. But at £1.40 each compared to just 40p for a typical H&R tank I won't be making a habit of this.

I have also painted some AB41 armoured cars to provide some recon screening for my Italian forces. These are some old recycled H&R models that I stripped for repainting. These servicable vehicles will come in handy in future games I am sure. 

Last up I painted six Opel Blitz trucks. These can be used by most German forces and in this case they will form part of a supply convoy for a battle scenario I am working on. 

I have just placed an order for yet more 6mm tanks to boost all my forces ready for another game later in the year.

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Battle of Bald Wood

After the Rejects returned from Cavalier in Tonbridge on Sunday we went back to Posties for a quick afternoon skirmish game. Initially it was just going to be two of us but last minute recruits brought our numbers up to four. Hats off to Postie who coped with these last minute changes and managed to put on an excellent little game that tested our skills and entertain us in equal measure. 

Setting the Scene
The battle was a fictional skirmish encounter set in 1750 somewhere near the Great Lakes on the border of what is now the USA and Canada. The British are trying to build a road and a small group of militia, light infantry and rangers have been attached to protect the workers. Meanwhile a strong raiding party of French Coureur De Bois, Militia and Indians advance through the woods towards the unsuspecting road builders.

Order of Battle
  10 Lt Infantry and Rangers + Leader
  8 Militia + Leader
  8 Civilian Workers + Cart!

  10 Coureur De Bois + Leader
  10 French Militia + Leader
  10 Indians + Leader

The Action
Initial setup. The British are building a road and have a small encampment protected by lt Infantry and Rangers. The French and Indians are approaching from the foreground. Here the British commanders (Ian and Ray) share a joke with Postie. 
The road builders...just before they break for tea. 
My Coureur De Bois advance through the woods to within musketry range of the leading British sentries.
Once on the edge of the woods they begin to fire on the sentries, readying for a headlong charge across the open ground in front of them. This was dangerous ground but it had to be crossed.
Meanwhile British Militia advance up the road towards the first sounds of gunfire
The French Militia and Indians (commanded by Richard and his son) advance quickly across the open ground, surprising the British with their speed. The English flee back to a stronger position, fearing for the safety of their scalps!
The English form a line if defence behind some hard cover but the first of many Indians reaches a British straggler and with a whoop leaps into melee!
Richard moved more Indians up to the front while the militia start for form a firing line on the edge of the forest. Meanwhile the Coureur De Bois advance - in the foreground - through a hail of musket balls which kills the only rifleman the English have. The Brits are looking very worried now... this seems to be something of a one sided fight. 
The British Militia start to feed into the fighting line while the workers go back to camp for a 'brew'. 
Now its time for some payback and the British rangers and light Infantry facing the Coureur De Bois unleash a deadly accurate hail of gunfire, killing three Frenchmen in one turn. This forces a moral test and in my true dice rolling style I not only fail the test, I fail it badly.
Having failed my Moral test by a large margin my Coureur De Bois must now retreat at full movement for four turns (4 !!!) before they come back under control, and it will take at least another four to bring them back into the fight. They are effectively out of the game. 
Ray trying (and failing) not to look smug after my disastrous moral test. Git.
I went and put the kettle on. 
The British now move some of their light infantry from the 'safe flank' over to the fight against the Indians. The hand to hand fighting here was brutal with both sides loosing lots of men. Meanwhile the French Militia have lined up on the edge of the wood and pour fire on the British defences with little success.
Both side exchanged fire but eventually the losses in Melee meant the French Indians broke and the British were able to claim a victory. 
Sigh. On the whole my dice were not too bad, and I claimed a couple of kills on my side of the battle. But when it came to the Morale roll I fluffed it bad. Having said that I do think four turns of retreating is a bit harsh! Aside form this I would say it was a great game. The rules are pretty simple and the game play was fast. We played for about two and a half to three hours which filled the afternoon quite nicely. Well done to Postie for yet again setting up a great game with yet more miniatures I haven't seen before (he really is a megalomaniac). 

Tuesday 25 February 2014

My Cavalier 2014 Photo's

On Sunday the Rejects drove down to Tonbridge in Kent for our first wargame show of the year; Cavalier. I didn't have a lot on my shopping list this year but I still managed to come home with some nice goodies, including yet more 6mm tanks and the obligatory re-stock of paint. I spent a lot of time chatting to folk this year... although as I'll mention at the end of this post, there were some people I'm gald I managed to avoid! 

Tonbridge Wargames - Cape St Vincent
Tonbridge Wargames - Cape St Vincent
Southend Wargames - Cryslers Farm 1813
Southend Wargames - Cryslers Farm 1813
Southend Wargames - Cryslers Farm 1813
Deal Wargames - Sunset over Shimushu 1945
Deal Wargames - Sunset over Shimushu 1945
Deal Wargames - Sunset over Shimushu 1945
Deal Wargames - Sunset over Shimushu 1945
At this point I need to apologise to the guys from Deal Wargames for bumping into the corner of their table early in the day. I just caught the corner of the table with my hand and dislodged a tile! Fortunately no models were knocked over or damaged but I was suitably mortified by my clumsiness. Sorry guys, I'll be more careful in future!! 

SEEMS - War of Spanish Succession 
SEEMS - War of Spanish Succession
Maidstone Wargames - Somewhere in Belgium 1914
Maidstone Wargames - Somewhere in Belgium 1914
TWWS - Blitzkrieg - Early war FOW
Friday Night Firefight Club - Crusaders
Hydra Wargames - WH40k Intro
Stains Wargames - Schweinfurt 1943
Crawley Wargames - Fraustadt 1706
Crawley Wargames - Fraustadt 1706
Crawley Wargames - Fraustadt 1706
SELWG - Welcome to Valhalla!
SELWG - Welcome to Valhalla!
Essex Warriors - Reconquista 1450
Essex Warriors - Reconquista 1450
Essex Warriors - Reconquista 1450
Gravesend Gamers Guild - French and Indian War Skirmish 1750
Gravesend Gamers Guild - French and Indian War Skirmish 1750

Right time for a little rant, and I apologise in advance for this but I do feel it is necessary. 

If you are a club or group planning on running a demo or participation game at a show, it may be a good idea to 'vet' who you leave in charge of your table at shows. When I arrived the one volunteer 'manning' the Gravesend Gamers Guild table (a woman actually) was already talking to another visitor and his son. She was clearly in full swing and warming to her subject but unfortunately she wasn't discussing the game on display. Instead she was explaining why 911 was actually a US government plot and the twin towers were destroyed by missiles launched from the military industrial complex....WTF! This poor guy and his little boy were 'trapped' by this crazy woman and as I walked past he glanced over at me and his eyes silently begged "Kill me. Kill me now".  

Lets make this clear folks, when you run a Demo game at a wargames show you should expect to have to adhere to a certain standard. You should be on your best behaviour, stick to the script and only discuss the game and/or wargaming in general. You are putting yourself in front of the General Public and for the duration of the show you are an ambassador for the hobby. If you can't keep your mad crack pot conspiracy theories to yourself for a few hours DON'T VOLUNTEER! Its as simple as that. I'm sorry if I have offended anyone but that poor guy and his son had come to the show to find out about wargaming and they probably left as fast as they could thinking we are all complete nutters! 

OK, now that I have got that off my chest its worth saying I had a great morning at Cavalier. Its a cracking little show with a nice variety of games on display and some much need retail therapy after the long winter months. Long may it prosper. 

A Mayan Casualty

My entry for the Casualty bonus round in the Analogue Challenge may be stretching the definition of a casualty just a little bit. The poor unfortunate victim in this vignette is a 'casualty' of a rather bloody sacrifice rather than a victim of combat. However for me the real focus of the model is the Priest in his colourful headdress. 

These figures were bought from the Bring and Buy stand at Salute some years ago and came in a plastic bag without any additional information or labelling. I have since found out that they were part of a larger set from Outpost Wargames (sculpted by Martin Baker) that originally included two other priest figures. They are cast in pewter to 28mm scale although the proportions do make these rather 'chunky' figures, full of character.

The decorated altar stone is part of the set but the larger stone base is actually an old resin casting by Ainsty Castings that I found and recycled for this project. I did consider removing the metal base from the feet of the priest - pinning it to steps of the altar instead - but in the end I decided to keep it separate so that this figure could be displayed separately. I think the whole vignette looks pretty cool but I'm pretty sure my wife might take a dim view of me putting a full bloodied human sacrifice scene on display in the Family room!